2012 - %3, November

This Week in Dark Money

| Fri Nov. 2, 2012 5:08 AM EDT

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money...

the money shot

 

 

quote of the week

"My opinion, for what it's worth, is that WTP was running a lot of these campaigns."
—Julie Staeb, an investigator for the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, referring to the possibility that nonprofit group Western Tradition Partnership illegally coordinated with Montana political candidates in 2008 and 2010. The investigation includes documents from the group that convicted felon Mark Siebel found in a meth house outside Denver in later 2010. Siebel claimed they were found by his friend in a stolen car; they were recently examined in a joint report by ProPublica and Frontline. WTP has since changed its name to American Tradition Partnership and is best known for its lawsuit that overturned Montana's ban on corporate spending and definitively expanded Citizens United to apply to states' campaign finance rules.

 

chart of the week

Citizens United helped Mitt Romney close President Obama's fundraising edge, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity and Center for Responsive Politics, but the Obama campaign was still able to take advantage of reduced ad rates for campaigns and air more commercials since late April than the Romney campaign, Republican National Committee, and seven outside spending groups supporting the GOP combined. Among all outside spending (below), Romney was the beneficiary of more than $350 million of it; Obama was supported by about $100 million in outside funds.

 

stat of the week

$6 billion: The estimated total cost of the 2012 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a record amount that would top the current record by $700 million. The presidential race was actually trailing 2008's $2.8 billion by $200 million as of the end of October, but more than $500 million reported to the FEC by outside spending groups and nearly $3 billion spent on House and Senate races more than makes up for the difference.

 

attack ad of the week

Nate Silver projects the likelihood of President Obama winning Pennsylvania and Michigan at 95.5 percent and 98.4 percent, respectively, but the Koch-funded nonprofit Americans for Prosperity apparently still thinks Romney's got a shot at winning them Tuesday. The group has doled out $3 million on a November ad buy in the two states. "I still believe in hope and change," a voter says in one of the ads. "I just don't think Obama's the way to go for that." Slate's David Weigel, who points out that this ad has already been running in Pennsylvania since August, calls the new ad buy "a great headline" but "one of many that overstates what third party groups can do in the last stretch of this campaign."

 

more must-reads

Mitt Romney Would Be Toast Without This Man: Charlie Spies helps run the king of all super-PACs—and he's used it to keep Romney's campaign alive.
Video: The First Silent Political Ad: Listen up! This election spot has something to say…very, very quietly.
• Among American Tradition Partnership's donors was an anti-union group with Colorado ties that gave the group $300,000. Center for Public Integrity
• The US Chamber of Commerce was the largest dark-money spender in 15 Congressional races this year. National Journal

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Something to Look at While You Wait for the BLS Jobs Report

| Fri Nov. 2, 2012 1:10 AM EDT

Here's something to ponder over while you wait for the BLS to release its final jobs report before the election. Gallup released its monthly unemployment survey on Thursday, and it showed a seasonally adjusted drop from 8.1 percent in September to 7.4 percent in October. The Gallup numbers are quite a bit more volatile than the official BLS numbers, as you can see in the chart below, but in general the two surveys move in similar directions. If that happens again on Friday, the BLS numbers will show a drop from 7.8 percent to.....I dunno....maybe 7.6 percent or so: a smaller decline than Gallup, but moving in the same direction.

Or maybe not. We'll know Friday morning.

FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: Nope. Unemployment ticked up to 7.9% according to the BLS report.

Election Forecasting Update - 1 November 2012

| Fri Nov. 2, 2012 12:23 AM EDT

Here's another update on the status of the most popular presidential forecasting models. I've mixed it up a bit since the previous one. On the top are Nate Silver and Andrew Tanenbaum; on the bottom are Sam Wang and Josh Putnam. Obama continues to widen his lead, and the average of the models now gives Obama 312 electoral votes.

Corn on MSNBC: Bloomberg's Obama Endorsement

Thu Nov. 1, 2012 9:17 PM EDT | Scheduled to publish Thu Nov. 1, 2012 9:17 PM EDT

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose city is reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, endorsed President Obama earlier today, citing the president's position on climate change. David Corn joined Martin Bashir and The Grio's Joy Reid on MSNBC today to discuss what kind of impact Bloomberg's remarks will have on the race.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Drudge: "Obama Left Them Behind"

| Thu Nov. 1, 2012 6:51 PM EDT

On Monday a friend emailed me about the likelihood of conservatives going all out to make Sandy look like Obama's Katrina. "I'd watch Drudge for the cues," he said. "He should have a picture of a stranded black person up at some point tomorrow." Today he emails to claim victory:

He was a couple of days off, and the picture also includes some white people, but not bad! Here's another of his predictions: "If Obama wins, you'll soon start hearing the impeachment drumbeat building from Fox News types over Benghazi. They'll go through the usual period of finger-pointing and disappointment, but it will quickly shift to a full-throated movement to re-focus their rage on Obama, and Benghazi will be the rallying cry. Trust me. I know these people. It's not going to take that long."

Hmmm. I hope he doesn't know them quite as well as he thinks. We'll see.

UPDATE: Bloomberg Bows to Pressure, Cancels Marathon

| Thu Nov. 1, 2012 4:59 PM EDT

UPDATE: Mayor Michael Bloomberg changed course Friday evening, canceling the marathon."While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division," he said in a statement.

The New York City Marathon, slated for this Sunday, is the biggest running event in the US. Each year, more than 100,000 people apply for one of the 47,000 spots, and then train for months to complete the grueling 26.2-mile course through the city's five boroughs. But given the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy, many people are surprised and, quite frankly, pissed off that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided not to cancel the race.

There's a debate raging on my Facebook feed right now about whether or not that was the right thing to do. I run, and I hang out with a lot of runners, and several of my friends are supposed to compete in New York this weekend. I completely get why runners would be frustrated if the race were canceled. That's a lot of training down the tubes. The city has also offered some good reasons to keep the race going. It brings in an estimated $340 million in revenue for the city, and generates $34 million for charities. Race officials say that they are going to dedicate the race to those who are suffering, and use it to help raise money and awareness to bolster recovery efforts.

That said, it seems difficult to argue that the marathon is the best use of everyone's time and effort this weekend, given that thousands of people are still without shelter, power, food or water. In addition to the runners, there are 700 people staffing the race, 10,000 volunteers, and 2.5 million spectators. Putting on the event also requires the work of hundreds of police, sanitation workers, and transit officials—all of whom could instead be deployed to help restore the city. 

The marathon uses a lot of resources that others in the city probably need more right now—like the 93,600 eight-ounce bottles of water handed out to runners, in addition to the 62,370 gallons of water used along the course. Marathons also distribute many pounds of food, which could go to needier New Yorkers—such as elderly people stranded without electricity in apartment buildings, as this video from the Climate Desk shows:

The race would also tie up traffic and transit, which the city really just doesn't need right now.

I can't put it any better than these New York runners who started an online petition asking the city to postpone the race until next spring: "This event is always a positive event and it should not be turned into a hugely negative drain on city resources."

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Bloomberg: It's No Time for a Climate Skeptic in the White House

| Thu Nov. 1, 2012 4:58 PM EDT

Here is our updated aphorism for the day:

Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows a climate skeptic might be elected in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.

This wasn't true last week for New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, but apparently Hurricane Sandy has brought him down from Mount Olympus. Now his mind is concentrated quite wonderfully indeed, and today he endorsed Barack Obama for president:

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week's devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

....But we can't do it alone. We need leadership from the White House — and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

....Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap-and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels....But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.

While we're on the subject, Scientific American's Mark Fischetti has an interesting post on the subject of scary climate change stories, something that I've been writing about recently. My problem with the scary story genre is that it's woefully insufficient when you're dealing with a problem that's essentially invisible and won't seriously affect most of us for decades. Stories about imperceptible menaces just don't pack enough of an emotional wallop. One solution, of course, is to write scary stories about events that are extremely concrete and very visible indeed. Like, say, Hurricane Sandy. The problem is that scientists tend to be pretty circumspect about blaming any individual hurricane on global warming. But Fischetti says that might be changing:

Hurricane Sandy has emboldened more scientists to directly link climate change and storms, without the hedge. On Monday, as Sandy came ashore in New Jersey, Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, tweeted: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is [the] storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.”

Raymond Bradley, director of the Climate Systems Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, was quoted in the Vancouver Sun saying: “When storms develop, when they do hit the coast, they are going to be bigger and I think that’s a fair statement that most people could sign onto.”

....Greg Laden, an anthropologist who blogs about culture and science, wrote this week in an online piece: “There is always going to be variation in temperature or some other weather related factor, but global warming raises the baseline. That’s true. But the corollary to that is NOT that you can’t link climate change to a given storm. All storms are weather, all weather is the immediate manifestation of climate, climate change is about climate.”

OK, this isn't quite "climate change caused Hurricane Sandy." But perhaps we're moving in that direction. If we do, it could mark a sea change (if you'll pardon the pun) in how the public views climate change. The more they see scientists linking it to concrete events—droughts in the Midwest, hurricanes in the Atlantic, wildfires in the West, icecaps disappearing in the Arctic—and the more they see scientists willing to make those links without caveating them to death, the more real climate change will become. Who knows? Maybe the scary story genre is in for a revival just at the moment I declared it dead.

VIDEO: NYC Gas Crisis Is "Like Something You See in the Movies"

| Thu Nov. 1, 2012 4:07 PM EDT

"Our gas crisis should end shortly." Those words of reassurance, issued this morning from New York Senator Charles Schumer, might not be enough for swarms of drivers in Brooklyn.

Limited bus and subway service returned to New York City Thursday morning, but cars remained one of the only options for moving between boroughs. As a result, the streets of Brooklyn—which normally depends heavily on public transit—were overwhelmed with drivers, and they were all looking for one thing: gas. But the city's main artery for this staple, the Port of New York, was closed during Hurricane Sandy and only just re-opened, leading to massive shortages, closed stations, and excruciating—and tense—lines for the pump.

Are High-Fructose Corn Syrup Makers in Denial?

| Thu Nov. 1, 2012 3:31 PM EDT

Whoa! Did the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) seriously just put out a press release using our just-published exposé, "Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies," as a cudgel in its court battle royale with the sugar industry? Why yes, it did. And I quote:

In court documents filed yesterday, attorneys for the U.S. sugar industry tried to deny that The Sugar Association is deceiving consumers into believing that processed table sugar is safer and more healthful than high fructose corn syrup, even as several recent media stories revealed they are funding secretive campaigns to attack HFCS and other sweeteners.

In the newest issue of Mother Jones, the cover story "Sweet Little Lies" chronicles the sugar industry's decades-long use of paid-for allies to mislead the news media, public and regulators through front groups and questionable science. Just weeks ago, a Bloomberg investigative reporter revealed that The Sugar Association has recently paid $300,000 to the phony consumer group, Citizens for Health, to launch petitions and other sponsored activities to stir-up baseless consumer concerns about high fructose corn syrup.

Wow, okay then.

Bloomberg Cites Climate Change As He Endorses Obama

| Thu Nov. 1, 2012 2:57 PM EDT

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Barack Obama for president on Thursday. Bloomberg, whose city is still dealing with the disaster left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, cited the president's position on climate change in a column posted on Bloomberg View:

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week’s devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

He continued:

We need leadership from the White House -- and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants (an effort I have supported through my philanthropy), which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.
Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap- and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels. “The benefits (of that plan) will be long- lasting and enormous -- benefits to our health, our economy, our quality of life, our very landscape. These are actions we can and must take now, if we are to have ‘no regrets’ when we transfer our temporary stewardship of this Earth to the next generation,” he wrote at the time.
He couldn’t have been more right. But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.

Who knows how much sway Bloomberg, an independent, holds with the general public. But it certainly highlights how ridiculous it is that climate change never came up in any of the presidential or vice-presidential debates.